argument top image

What is the sociological definition of a family?
Back to question

Families can take many forms

Families can be biologically related, adoptive, or fostered. They can feature distant relatives or a "nuclear" family of two parents of any sexes. Whatever the form, provided it is socializing children, it can still be classified as a family.


A family is the vehicle through which we socialize children. This allows for a family to take many forms. The definition is as applicable to a “traditional” family featuring a male and female parent as it is to modern iterations, where a grandparent, stepparent, or unmarried partner undertakes child-rearing responsibilities.

The Argument

Viewing the family as the setting where a child is first exposed to the values and norms of the culture they grow up in allows for a broad interpretation of family. Anyone that introduces a child to these values, be it the child’s biological parents, adoptive parents, stepparents, or extended family member, becomes the “family”. [1] Socializing children is an important component of a family for many people. In 2010, 39.6% of Americans considered an unmarried couple living together without a child as a family. If this same unmarried couple has children, the percentage of Americans that consider the couple a family raises to 83%. [2]. Overall, many people consider that various forms of the structure of members a family, provided that socializing children is part of the role of the members.

Counter arguments

The definition of family should not take many forms and should be narrow and restrictive. Family is a structure in which a man and a woman are connected to each other through marriage. Viewing family through a narrow definition is called "exclusionism" in sociology. Exclusionists usually connect the meaning of family to traditional religious beliefs because traditional religious beliefs describe the family in this restrictive definition. The family should be only this definition and should not expand to multiple definitions that deviate from the traditional meaning of family.[3] The definition of family should take many forms including when there are no children. Family is based on love and attachment regardless of its members. Anyone can be considered as part of the family as long as one considers them members of the family. Inclusionists consider friends, relatives, and other people with connections as part of the family. This definition does not require the presence of children. Saying that a family can take many forms with the condition that socializing children is a component of it is too restrictive.



[P1] Family is the setting where a child is exposed to the values and norms of a culture. [P2] Whoever is exposing the child to those norms can be considered "family". [P3] Therefore, families are not limited to traditional formats.

Rejecting the premises


This page was last edited on Sunday, 13 Sep 2020 at 18:27 UTC

Explore related arguments